8 Areas the Indianapolis Colts Still Must Improve This Offseason
With two blowout losses over the past three games, it's safe to say that the Indianapolis Colts have some work to do in a number of areas on their roster.
The Colts are currently 7-4 and hold the top spot in the AFC South by two games, but they're also just 2-2 since the bye week. Since the injury to Reggie Wayne, the Colts have scored a combined 12 points in the first half and the defense has struggled at times.
While this season is still far from over, now would be the ideal time to look at some areas where the Colts could improve over the offseason. These areas are based off of obvious needs as well as future needs for the 2014 season with contracts expiring.
Let's get started.
The offensive line has a number of issues, but the first one that they will need to address is that of Samson Satele.
Not only has Satele been dealing with injuries for the past two seasons, he also hasn't been playing well when healthy. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Satele has an overall grade of minus-8.8, which is the third-worst grade on offense for the Colts.
Satele's contract will be up after the 2014 season, and it would be smarter to find help at the position now rather than later. Khaled Holmes is the backup, but he's consistently been a healthy scratch and the Colts clearly don't seem to trust him to even be a backup at this point.
2. Offensive Guard
By far the biggest need for the Colts, this team needs help at offensive guard as soon as possible.
Mike McGlynn and Hugh Thornton have seriously struggled to protect Andrew Luck this season, and it's been an issue almost every single game. PFF has them graded as the two worst players for the Colts on either side of the ball, with McGlynn posting a minus-22.6 overall grade and Thronton with a minus-11.9 grade.
The good news is that Donald Thomas will return for the 2014 season, and his contract is good through 2016. However, the Colts will need to find someone else to play opposite of Thomas for Andrew Luck to have time in the pocket and for the running game to get going.
3. Wide Receiver
The past four games have showed just how weak the Colts are at the wide receiver position without Reggie Wayne.
T.Y. Hilton has been great once again this year, catching 51 passes for 745 yards and five touchdowns. However, no one else has really stepped up. Darrius Heyward-Bey has been a huge disappointment, much like Donnie Avery in 2012.
DHB has caught just 26 passes for 263 yards and one score while dropping seven passes. He also has the second-highest drop rate among receivers in the NFL with at least 25 percent of the team's targets, posting a 20.59 percent drop rate, per PFF.
With just a one-year deal, Heyward-Bey will be gone after this season, and that will leave the Colts with few options. Reggie Wayne isn't going to play forever, and Hilton can't be the only receiver for Luck to throw to down the road.
4. Kick Returner
David Reed needs to stop trying to return kickoffs from out of the back of the end zone.
There have been multiples times this season where the Colts have started inside their own 15-yard line due to Reed or some other kick returner trying to take the ball out of the end zone. It hasn't worked so far, as the Colts have had just two kick returns of over 30 yards.
What's even worse is that the longest return for the Colts has only been 39 yards, which ranks 25th in the league.
While the Colts shouldn't go out of their way to pick up a return specialist, they at least need to find someone that can get the ball past the 20-yard line on a consistent basis.
5. Pass Rush
Robert Mathis is having the best season of his career. With 14.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, he's becoming a serious Defensive Player of the Year candidate at 32 years old.
But he can't be the only one that can get to the passer.
The rest of the team is seriously struggling to rush the quarterback, combining for another 14.5 sacks. Only two others players, Jerrell Freeman and Cory Redding, have more than 3.0 sacks this season.
Bjoern Werner is still a work in progress. He's missed several games this season, and he's registered just one sack. Hopefully Werner can get better over the next couple of years, but the Colts need to bring in someone else to help put pressure on the QB.
It seems like few people are talking about the issues in the defensive backfield, but they are certainly there and are going to need to be addressed this offseason.
Antoine Bethea, for as terrific of a player as he's been over the years, just doesn't look the same this season. He's been burned numerous times, especially in the game against the Houston Texans, where Andre Johnson burned the secondary several times. PFF has Bethea as the seventh-worst safety in pass coverage, with opposing QBs posting a 113.1 passer rating when throwing at him.
After this season, Bethea will be a free agent, and now there's a real chance the Colts decide to go in a different direction. That leaves LaRon Landry, who has struggled to stay healthy and isn't a good coverage safety, along with Sergio Brown and Delano Howell.
Plain and simple, the Colts need to find help this offseason at safety.
At this point, the secondary for the Colts has been incredibly inconsistent. They were able to shut down Peyton Manning for the most part, then got torched in their next game by Case Keenum and allowed Carson Palmer to post a 114.0 passer rating this past week.
Vontae Davis has been brilliant at times and baffling at others. He's a player that the Colts should re-sign after the season, but he is a free agent after this year and could be looking for more money.
Meanwhile, Greg Toler has played in just seven games this season and hasn't played since their game against the Denver Broncos. Health has always been a major concern for him, and considering he'll only count for $666,667 over the next two years, per Spotrac, the Colts could cut him if needed, but I doubt they will.
That leaves Darius Butler, who has been inconsistent as well, and a handful of players I'd rather not see on the field. If Davis leaves, this will be yet another big area of concern for Indianapolis.
8. Offensive Coordinator
Sorry, Colts fans, but Pep Hamilton just isn't working out.
The offense was supposed to involve a shorter passing game that tried to imitate Luck's success at Stanford, but it hasn't gone nearly as well as Hamilton was hoping it would. Despite having Luck under center, the Colts rank 16th in points scored with just 23.9 per game and 18th in passing with just 229.9 passing yards per game.
The running game is incredibly frustrating to watch, as Trent Richardson is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry this season. The use of a fullback and a power running game can't work without a reliable offensive line, especially in the interior, but Hamilton seems determined to stick with it.
While Hamilton's philosophies worked great in college, they haven't translated to the next level, and it may already be time for the Colts to cut ties and look elsewhere for their next offensive coordinator.
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